Monday, June 26, 2017

4 Postcrossing cards packed with European folklife and culture

Sharing some folklife-themed postcards I have received in recent weeks via the joy of Postcrossing...

From sisters Vladimira and Alexandra in Slovakia. They write: "The postcard shows a type of our folklore — our heritage. You can also see the High Tatras — our beautiful mountains."

From Minna in Finland. She writes: "The card shows a typical farmyard from Finland before 1960's. And the old men and women have very typical farmers' clothes. But the good physical condition of the old men is not realistic. :D"

From Kseniia in Ukraine, who writes: "Motanka is a traditional Ukrainian handmade doll and also it is an amulet, a symbol of maternity, family and love."

Here's some more about the doll-motanka, from a website called "Family Nest":
"There were these dolls in every peasant house. They performed a variety of functions such as the protection of the house, of children, of sleep and of household. Children liked to play with it. This doll differs from a typical doll by the absence of face. According to the ancient popular beliefs, the face inspired a soul in a doll. The soul can be good or bad. These dolls are made from the natural materials such as (hay, straw, wood, herbs, dry leaves, grains, seeds). The doll-motanka was decorated by the national ornaments and by the embroidery.

"People believed that there was a spirit of ancestors in it and it could pass on the experience from generation to generation. The Ukrainian people believed that this symbol brought them wealth and fortune. The secrets of making this doll were passed on from mother to daughter."

From Angela in Germany. She writes: "This is a folk dance we do on the 1st of May. Men and women are dancing around a Maypole. Their colored ribbons weave a special design."

Sunday, June 25, 2017

More Swarthmore: Old envelope mailed to my great-grandmother

Here's an old envelope (now empty) that was mailed to my great-grandmother from Austria. This is when she and my great-grandfather were living in Swarthmore1, before they moved to the newly built house on Oak Crest Lane in the early 1950s.

I cannot tell the date from the postmark. But the REPUBLIK OSTERREICH Austrian stamp, which has a value of 1 Austrian Schilling, was issued in August 1946, as part of the "scenic 1945 issue of Austria."

There is some writing on the back of the envelope, presumably a return address in Austria, but I can't get much of a good lead from it. I'm not sure who the family knew in Europe at that time, and with Mom gone, this might have entered the realm of eternal mystery...

1. SWARTH-more and SWATH-more are both acceptable pronunciations of Swarthmore. I think I actually fluctuate between the two, depending on how quickly or precisely I'm trying to speak.

"Premium Prize Coupon" for
The Music Box in Swarthmore

Here's an old "Premium Prize Coupon" from The Music Box, a record store that was located at 10 Park Avenue in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania (just a few minutes from the old family home on Oak Crest Lane in Wallingford).

If you collected a sufficient number of coupons, you could get a free 98-cent record or even a free $3.98 record. I have no idea how coupons were originally distributed. Maybe it was as simple as you received one coupon for every $1 or $2 worth of products purchased. So, perhaps you could get a free 98-cent record after purchasing ten 98-cent records.

According to the coupon, the store sold records, sheet music, needles, batterys [sic], high fidelity [equipment?], stereos and TVs. The shop's phone number was KI 3-1460.

Here are some other tidbits I discovered about The Music Box:

  • There's an advertisement for The Music Box in the 1947 edition of The Halcyon, Swarthmore College's yearbook. So the business dates back at least that far. In 1947, however, it had a different location — 409 Dartmouth Avenue in Swarthmore.
  • According to a short news item in the August 21, 1965, issue of Billboard magazine: "The Music Box, suburban music and record shop in Swarthmore, Pa., changed its name to Hi-Fi Studio-Music Box." So this coupon dates to sometime before August 1965.
  • And here are some lengthy excerpts from an article1 headlined "Component sales spurt among hi fi experts on local campuses" in the June 10, 1971, edition of the Philadelphia Daily News:
    Dick Shafer, manager of Hi Fi Studio Music Box, Swarthmore, can attest to that because this firm's sales among the teenagers and young college student set has been increasing significantly in the past few years. "The youngsters today think nothing of spending their money for good stereo systems," Shafer said recently. "It never fails to surprise me the amount of knowledge they have of the equipment and the latest developments. It also appears to me that young people must have ultra sensitive ears because they can pick out faults in a system almost immediately and it is very difficult to get anything past them."

    Nevertheless, Shafer and his boss, Harry Oppenlander, love to sell to the youngsters. "I learn something new every time I wait on a youngster here in the store," Shafer said. "For instance, I learned The Hi-Fi stereo component system has become somewhat of a status symbol among to day's younger set — particularly those attending area colleges."

    The way sales have been progressing in recent years at Hi Fi Studio Music Box, every dormitory room at Swarthmore College and most other area colleges must have its own stereo system. The little store in the heart of quaint Swarthmore has become a mecca for area college students because, according to Shafer, "the word passes from ear to ear very quickly among college students. They meet at parties and sports events and very often the talk evolves around stereo systems and the latest in hit records."

    But don't get the idea Hi-Fi Studio Music Box is only for youngsters. It's not, because the firm didn't build its solid reputation among students alone. "Just as stereo systems are growing among youngsters, so, too, are they growing in popularity among the older set," according to Shafer. "I think the youngsters have taught the older people how to really enjoy music," Shafer contends. "I know that we pass on the knowledge we get from the kids to the older people who come in and they are always amazed. For instance, most of the older people listen to the sound or the total score. We have been teaching them to listen for individual instruments and it has enhanced their enjoyment of the set."

1. I'm not sure whether this is an actual newspaper article or an advertorial. I have some suspicions about the urgency with which it is promoting the sale of stereos.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Judith Eleanor Sublett's bookplate

Here is the simple bookplate for Judith Eleanor Sublett's library. It appears on the inside front cover of 1910's The Wide-Awake Girls at College, which was the final book in a three-book series by Katharine Ruth Ellis. (Today, they would probably be called The Woke Girls.)

The phrase on the bookplate — "Go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves" — is an excerpt from the King James version of Matthew 25:9. The full King James verse states:
"But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves."
I will not even begin to delve into the message of that verse, how and if it might apply to book ownership and what it might have meant personally to Judith. I'll leave the first part of that wondering to the Bible scholars.

I do know that Judith had at least 28 books, though.

Judith Eleanor Sublett lived from 1900 to 1962, according to her Find A Grave page. She was born in Harrisonburg, Virginia. She was a graduate of the Class of 1920 at Saint Mary's School in Raleigh, North Carolina. She married John E. Catlin and had a son, John England Catlin Jr., who lived from 1926 to 1999 and was a brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force. Judith died in Bergen County, New Jersey. She is buried at Woodbine Cemetery in Harrisonburg.

And she liked to read.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Friday Reads: Summer reading

Oy. It's been so longearly February — since I posted a collection of links to great articles and a rundown of what I'm reading.

So let's dive in, and please share you Summer Reading Program down in the comments. I'm always looking for more things to add to my list.

Books I've finished in recent months
  • Smith of Wootton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham, by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • From Bauhaus to Our House, by Tom Wolfe
  • Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb, by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm
  • Turning Japanese, by MariNaomi
  • Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath, by Ted Koppel
  • A Hundred Thousand Worlds, by Bob Proehl
  • Making Hay, by Verlyn Klinkenborg

Currently reading
  • Door to Door: The Magnificent, Maddening, Mysterious World of Transportation, by Edward Humes
  • Restless Nights: Selected Stories, by Dino Buzzati, Lawrence Venuti (translator)
  • The Avengers Omnibus, Vol. 1, by Stan Lee (writer), Jack Kirby (artist), Don Heck (artist), et al. [finally finishing this behemoth after many months]
  • ongoing Secret Empire comics series by Nick Spencer

Just checked out from library
  • Laika, by Nick Abadzis
  • Last Harvest, by Witold Rybczynski

Enthusiastic about reading in coming months
  • My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, by Emil Ferris
  • Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann
  • Fallen Glory: The Lives and Deaths of Twenty Lost Buildings from the Tower of Babel to the Twin Towers, by James Crawford
  • One for the Books, by Joe Queenan
  • Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest, by Zeynep Tufekci
  • Henchgirl, by Kristen Gudsnuk
  • Witness to the Revolution: Radicals, Resisters, Vets, Hippies, and the Year America Lost Its Mind and Found Its Soul, by Clara Bingham
  • The Gallows Pole, by Benjamin Myers
  • Mail-Order Mysteries: Real Stuff from Old Comic Book Ads, by Kirk Demarais
  • and so many others...

A few links to articles and essays to read
on your lunch hour or during the weekend

And if you just need a good laugh

The Magic Square Impregnated
(old matchbox label)

This illustration is featured on the label of an old matchbox, manufacturer unknown. This one states "MADE IN ENGLAND" across the bottom, and I found some mentions indicating that it was produced circa 1930.

I also found, while searching online, some nearly identical labels, the only difference being that they state MADE IN SWEDEN instead of England. Another, even more specially, cites Jönköping, Sweden.

"Impregnated" refers to fact that the match heads are impregnated with chemical fuses that allow combustion to take place if they are struck in the proper manner. Matches are further referred to as either safety matches (as these were) or strike-anywhere matches.

As far as the wizard and the Magic Square, Lars G. Wallentin of the Packaging Sense website called these the Sudoku of the 1930s:
"As each match box contained about 60 matches, The Magic Square told this in a very creative way. Note that however you add it up, whether vertically, horizontally or diagonally, you arrive at 60!"
To see more cool matchbox labels, check out Packaging Sense, an old io9 article titled "The Weird and Occasionally WTF World of Matchbox Art" and

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Nature vs. nuture vs. turtlenecks

Each autumn and winter, I receive a fair amount of ribbing for my propensity toward wearing turtlenecks and mock turtlenecks. Upon sorting through some family photos, I would suggest that it was definitely a learned behavior. And that I was a damn-fine well-dressed young man in the 1970s.

January 1974

March 1975
Adriane and I, taken at Harris Studios of Williamsport and Muncy, Pa.

Autumn 1978
Second Grade

Another reason we shouldn't be too critical of the Youth Turtleneck Phase is that it was followed by the Philadelphia Phillies T-Shirt in Every School Photo phase.

Three nifty old aircraft-themed book covers

This afternoon's post follows on the heels of last week's "Three nifty old sports-themed book covers."

  • Title: The Motor Boys Over the Rockies
  • Series: The Motor Boys (this book is #10 of 22)
  • Author: Clarence Young (a pseudonym used by several Stratemeyer authors)
  • Cover illustrator: Possibly R. Richards
  • Publisher: Cupples & Leon Company, New York
  • Year of publication: 1911
  • Pages: 248
  • Excerpt from preface: "Airships are now getting to be a regular feature of our daily life, and, while not yet as numerous as automobiles, it is only a question of time when they will be. You remember, I suppose, when automobiles were not very numerous, but there is not a city in this country to-day, where several can not be seen."
  • Excerpt from story: "Their course was not southwest, and, judging by the speed and length of time they had been in motion, they figured that the airship was over Pennsylvania. As it raced along, about five hundred feet above the surface, and over a rather sparsely settled country, Bob, who was looking through a telescope, suddenly uttered a cry."
  • Notes: Names written in the front include Margaret Ann Yancey (possibly this person), John Yancey and John Brake. ... See the previous posts on The Rover Boys at Big Horn Ranch and a Motor Girls book cover.

  • Title: The Sky Detectives
  • Subtitle: How Jack Ralston Got His Man
  • Series: The Jack Ralston/Sky Detectives Series (this is #1 of 6)
  • Author: Ambrose Newcomb
  • Cover illustrator: Unknown
  • Publisher: The Goldsmith Publishing Company, Chicago
  • Year of publication: 1930
  • Pages: 254
  • Excerpt: "No flyer ever saw his enemy going down in a flaming coffin without feeling compassion gripping him; that one moment had changed his heart from bitter hatred to a sense of pity; knowing as he must have done that the day might be near at hand when he too would share in a similar dreadful fate."
  • Notes: The inscription on the first page states "Merry Christmas 1946 from Jack B. Ward." ... If you're curious, you can read the The Sky Detectives MEGAPACK™, featuring all six books in the series, for just 99 cents on Kindle.

  • Title: Bill Bruce in the Trans-Continental Race
  • Series: The Aviator Series (also known as the Bill Bruce Series). This is #5 of 6.
  • Author: Major Henry H. Arnold, Air Corps, aka Hap Arnold (1886-1950)
  • Cover illustrator: Unknown
  • Publisher: A.L. Burt Company, New York
  • Year of publication: 1928
  • Pages: 247
  • Excerpt: "Bill studied his map as he returned to this plane. Battle Mountain, 169 miles away, was the next control. The railroad in between the two towns made a large letter 'S.' Anyone flying a straight course would pass over many miles of rough, mountainous, barren, uninhabited terrain. In case of a forced landing there would be absolutely no possibility of getting the plane repaired and continuing the race."
  • Notes: All six books in the series were published in 1928. ... Upon doing one final flip-through of this book, I found an exciting little "tucked away inside." It's an old cursive note, on a piece of paper the size of a magazine address label. It states: "Dear Claire, This reminded me so much of you that I just had to take it home."